Kip Williams has pulled together a strong season for Sydney Theatre Company 2018, his first as artistic director. A weighty female line-up, a raft of new Australian voices telling vital local stories, big name actors and directors: it’s clear this 30-year-old relative newcomer means business.
Some of the marquee stage and screen actors returning include Orange is the New Black’s Yael Stone, Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge, Waiting for Godot), Kath and Kim’s Jane Turner; Cleverman director and Redfern Now actor Wayne Blair directed by Holding the Man’s Neil Armfield.
“I really wanted to create a season that had Australian work at its centre,” says Williams. “What are the stories we’re not telling or haven’t told yet?”
Williams has programmed a number of the theatrical canon’s heavy-hitting classics, including Top Girls written by “one of the greatest living writers” Caryl Churchill, whose dinner party with some of the greatest women through the ages explores power and gender. Screen Actors Guild award-winning actor Stone takes the title role in Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw’s 1923 play that contributed to his receiving a Nobel Prize two years later. Weaving will eat up the ruthlessly charming villain at the heart of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
Prodigious writer and actor Kate Mulvany will adapt beloved Australian writer Ruth Park’s trilogy The Harp in the South in a new five-and-a-half hour blockbuster play performed over two nights by a cast of 18. “This epic theatre event is one of the most ambitious productions the STC has created,” Williams says.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Indigenous writer H Lawrence Sumner. He’s a playwright nobody will have heard of but whose new work The Long Forgotten Dream is “a beautiful new work, one of those rare scripts that reads like an instant Australian classic.” It’s a family tale inspired by Indigenous repatriation. “There aren’t too many unproduced playwrights in Australia who can say their first play will star Wayne Blair and be directed by Neil Armfield,” Williams quips.
Just as relevant and urgent is the story of one of Australia’s most iconic trans activists, Catherine McGregor, told through her own words in Still Point Turning. Writer, activist and columnist Nakkiah Lui presents her latest play, Blackie Blackie Brown about an Aboriginal superhero gaining vengeance on the 400 white descendants of the man who murdered her ancestors. “A very funny piece, a genre mash-up of superheroes, blacksploitation and animation,” says Williams.
Rounding things off is a local production of what is widely regarded as the best play to come out of the UK this decade, Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children. Headed for Broadway, the play tackles climate change, inter-generational conflict, love and regret. Provoked by the Fukushima disaster, it led to Williams “walking out of the theatre afterwards, calling my parents and bursting into tears. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful play.”